The Deal Island Marsh & Community Project
10 Key Findings from the Deal Island Marsh & Community Project: Insights for Future Collaborations
1) Inherent strengths and weaknesses define the Deal Island Peninsula Area:
It is important to keep in mind that existing resiliencies and vulnerabilities in the Deal Island Peninsula area are critical to the ways environmental and social changes are experienced and handled into the future, rather than only new changes and challenges.
2) Resilience is a defining attribute of the Deal Island Peninsula area:
The environment, people, and ways people have interacted with andadapted to the environment are ongoing sources of resilience. Especially resilient features are: marshes, protected shorelines, blue crab fishery, ability to handle flooding and storms locally, faith and closeness to nature, independence and resourcefulness, social networks and community, and resilience as a state of mind.
3) Vulnerability is a way of life and a part of the human condition of living in a coastal environment:
Forces of environmental and socio-economic change are constantly at work in the Deal Island Peninsula area. Adapting to change and accommodating challenges are understood to be a way of life here. Specific features of vulnerability include: a low-lying area, sea level rise, land subsidence, rising water table, erosion, disappearance of fisheries, changes in weather, and changing community composition.
4) There are differences in scale in the way local and non-local project stakeholders understand vulnerability and resilience:
Local residents tend to identify vulnerabilities and resiliencies as specific items of negative or positive impact on local conditions. Nonlocal stakeholders demonstrate concern for larger-scale and systemic vulnerabilities such as marsh degradation, flooding, and environmental governance and identify working together as a key source of resilience. These findings point both to divergent interests and priorities across our stakeholder group as well as different understandings of what can be done. Working through issues of scale will be an important challenge for the future.
5) Resilience is the positive antidote to vulnerability’s negativity:
Consideration of both concepts is needed, but resilience is an important starting point for optimistic climate change adaptation planning and strategies to improve and strengthen the community’s ability to maintain their way of life as long as they are feasibly able.
6) Collaborative learning is an effective building block of shared visioning and decision making for the future:
Our collaborative learning and collaborative science activities have helped us to develop and maintain a stakeholder network that is poised to gain additional community involvement in planning and implementing climate change adaptation strategies.
7) Three key areas of work to consider into the future are heritage, marsh restoration, and flooding and shoreline erosion.
These areas were the key topics identified by our stakeholder group to continue work in the future. Key vulnerability priorities for our network include: adaptability to change, ethic of cooperation, and protected shorelines. Key resilience priorities include: deny vulnerability, rising sea levels & rising tides, erosion, distant management and governance, and storms.
8) Socio-ecological economics evaluation has identified a range of valuations for the area:
Local stakeholders identified community livelihoods as an important socio-ecological system service, while non-local stakeholders focused on ecological sustainability as a critical socio-ecological system service. These different valuations point to the need to accommodate both of these priorities in the future where possible.
9) Effects of marsh restoration activities are still being studied:
Restoration of ditch-drained marshes is hypothesized to strengthen overall marsh health by restoring more natural marsh hydrology leading to accretion of soils and lessening marsh vulnerability to inundation and flooding. Research is still ongoing to test this hypothesis and answer the question of whether restoring ditched marshes better enables them to keep pace naturally with rising sea levels. The original intent of ditching marshes was for mosquito control and data collected through this project indicates that mosquito habitat is largely in upland forested areas not in the marshes so restoration of marshes would not contribute to increasing mosquito populations.
10) Management and sustainability of our multi-disciplinary project is an ongoing challenge:
Relying upon grant and institutional funding for our work has so far resulted in a coordinated patchwork of objectives. In the future and as visioning work proceeds more planning is needed to ensure the Deal Island Peninsula Project is both managerially and socially sustainable in order to maintain the positive momentum of our multi-faceted stakeholder group.
Project stakeholders participate in a fieldtrip to area marshes (above); and a 2013 CRP workshop to discuss marsh restoration.